Trump Says He Never Directed Michael Cohen to Break the Law
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he never directed his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to break the law, saying that as a lawyer Cohen should know what’s legal and what’s not.
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made,” Trump said Thursday on Twitter. “That is why they get paid.”
Cohen drew a three-year prison sentence Wednesday after pleading guilty to breaking campaign-finance laws by arranging hush payments to women who alleged affairs with Trump, as well as lying to Congress and banks. Saying he accepted full responsibility for his crimes, Cohen described the burden of his role as Trump’s “fixer”: “It was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”
Trump said in a Fox News interview later Thursday that he now regrets having hired Cohen.
“In retrospect, I made a mistake,” Trump said. “It happens, I hire usually good people.” The president added, "He made a deal in order to embarrass me."
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said Wednesday that he is willing to reveal publicly what he knows about Trump once Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is finished.
The special counsel’s team interviewed Cohen for about 70 hours, but little is known about what he shared. Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress and Mueller’s investigators about the timing of a proposed Trump tower in Moscow and Trump’s involvement in the project. Davis said that false testimony was shared with the White House before Cohen submitted it to Congress and it is possible Trump was aware at the time that Cohen would make false statements.
Trump in others tweets Thursday said he “did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, even if they apply” and that the charges against Cohen “were not criminal.”
Trump said in April that he didn’t even know Cohen had made the payments, telling reporters aboard Air Force One to “ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney.”
Trump said of Cohen on Thursday: “Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook.”
Cohen pleaded guilty in New York in August, saying that “Individual-1” (widely identified as Trump) schemed to silence two women about affairs with the Republican candidate before the 2016 election. Cohen acknowledged that such payments amounted to illegal campaign donations -- and said he arranged for them at Trump’s behest.
It was also revealed in court filings Wednesday related to Cohen that at least one unidentified aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign joined the attorney in an August 2015 meeting with the publisher of the National Enquirer to discuss suppressing negative news stories during the election.
Trump told Fox News that he didn’t think he “even paid any money to that tabloid.”
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